Sonic the Hedgehog means very little to me. I’ve never played his video games, let alone anything else released by Sega.
On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of movies where an adorable youth or animal warms an unexpected hero’s heart. I couldn’t even begin to count the ones I’ve seen where it comes down to the big city vs. the small town. Or when the U.S. government or its agents are callous and self-serving. Or when the heroes take a road trip.
“Sonic the Hedgehog,” starring Ben Schwartz as the little blue devil, doesn’t really do anything special with its elements. It has a winning performance from Schwartz and a reliable if unmemorable straight man in James Marsden.
Hiding out on Earth with his golden rings, Sonic settles in Green Hills, Montana. It’s the home of Sheriff Tom Wachowski (Marsden). Known by Sonic as the “Donut Lord” because he plays with his food, Tom lives a pleasant but quiet life. We know it’s pleasant but quiet because the movie tells us so. It often tells us so.
Anyway, Tom’s ready for adventure. With the support of veterinarian wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter), he’s applied for and been hired by the San Francisco Police Department. Disoriented by a tranquilizer dart, Sonic ends up misplacing his rings on the Transamerica Pyramid.
Sonic, accidentally shot by Tom, quickly gets the human entangled in his problems. You see, during a fit of loneliness, Sonic ran so fast, generated a lot of energy and created a blackout strong enough to affect the whole Pacific Northwest. This catches the attention of the government, which calls on Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) to track down Sonic and Tom.
I like Jim Carrey. I do. I really, really did not like him in “Sonic the Hedgehog.” Robotnik is such an off-putting character, the kind of guy with an impenetrable air of superiority. And he just will not let it go.
Honestly, Carrey’s too good for “Sonic the Hedgehog.” He embraces Robotnik’s misanthropy, but does it so thoroughly and so immediately that the character quickly has nowhere to go. Well, almost nowhere. There’s a fun scene where Robotnik, thinking he’s alone, grooves to music while testing the potency of one of Sonic’s quills.
Directed by Jeff Fowler, “Sonic the Hedgehog” is written by Patrick Casey and Josh Miller. Fowler fares the best of the trio and that’s not saying much. The movie’s best sequences occur when Sonic uses his speed to get out of binds. It would be really cool, if it wasn’t ripping off Quicksilver’s schtick from the X-Men movies.
Casey and Miller, meanwhile, seem to want you to know how smart they are. Robotnik, who thinks Tom is a domestic terrorist, is very fond of his highly powerful and dangerous drones. He marvels at how Amazon wants to use drones for deliveries and about whether or not people consider what the government uses tax dollars for.
This is all forced edgy humor, but it’s not as awkward as a moment where Tom and Maddie are concealing Sonic in an overnight bag. He’s complaining about it, Tom and Maddie are trying to play the situation off as normal, it looks like the pair are committing child abuse … and two onlookers just slowly walk away.
The cast also includes Lee Majdoub as Agent Stone, the closest thing Robotnik has to a friend; Adam Pally as the particularly dim Officer Whipple; and Natasha Rothwell as Rachel, Tom’s sister-in-law who hates him for whatever reason.
Regular readers know I grade on a Recommended or Not Recommended scale. It’s simple, to the point and what I’m going to use for this review. My grade for “Sonic the Hedgehog” is based on three components: Sonic, Carrey and the movie itself.
“Sonic the Hedgehog” scores a 1.75 out of 3. I give Sonic’s characterization and Schwartz’s voice acting a solid 1. The movie gets a .5 out of 1, weighed down by the nothing special storytelling and action. Carrey gets .25 out of 1. He’s done better work and I hope he’ll do more.
I’m giving “Sonic the Hedgehog” a barely Recommended rating.